Perennials, 40–100 cm, usually colonial, sometimes ± cespitose; short-(seldom long-)rhizomatous. Stems 1–2+, erect (straight to slightly flexuous, sometimes robust), glabrous. Leaves thin to firm, margins slightly recurved, scabrous, faces glabrous; basal mostly withering by flowering, petiolate (petioles narrowly winged, sheathing), blades lanceolate-ovate to ovate or spatulate, 25–110 × 10–40 mm, bases usually rounded to attenuate, seldom ± cordate, margins serrulate to shallowly serrate, apices obtuse to acute; proximal cauline often withering by flowering, petiolate (petioles ± widely winged, ± clasping), blades lance-ovate or narrowly ovate, 50–95 × 19–31 mm, bases usually rounded to attenuate, sometimes cuneate, rarely subcordate, margins serrate to serrulate; distal winged-petiolate or subpetiolate or sessile, blades lance-ovate or narrowly ovate to lanceolate or sometimes linear (in arrays), 7–1.5 × 3–31 mm, gradually and strongly reduced distally, bases cuneate, scarcely or not clasping, to slightly rounded and ± clasping, margins serrulate or entire, apices acute to acuminate. Heads in broad (appearing ± corymbiform) or narrow, paniculiform to ± racemiform arrays, branches usually long (to 10 cm), ascending to divaricate. Peduncles (when present) 0.2–1.5 cm, densely pilose or pilosulous, bracts 1–6+, lanceolate to oblong-lanceolate, foliaceous to distally grading into phyllaries. Involucres campanulate, (6–)7–10 mm. Phyllaries in 3–4(–5) series, broadly lanceolate constricted to narrow oblong bases (outer) to oblong-lanceolate or linear-lanceolate (inner), ± unequal, bases indurate 1/10–1/5 (outer) to 4/5+ (inner), margins hyaline, narrowly scarious, erose (indurate portion), sparsely ciliolate (foliaceous portion), green zones foliaceous (outer) to distal 1/5–1/4 foliaceous (inner), basally truncate to lanceolate, apices spreading to squarrose, acute to acuminate, mucronulate, abaxial faces glabrous or glabrate, adaxial strigillose (foliaceous portion). Ray florets 13–30; corollas blue to purple, laminae (10–)15–17 × 1.6–3 mm. Disc florets 35–50+; corollas cream to pale yellow becoming pinkish, 5.8–6.8 mm, tubes shorter than funnelform throats, lobes lanceolate, 0.9–1.2 mm, glabrous. Cypselae tan, obovoid to oblanceoloid, compressed, 3–3.9 mm, 4–6-nerved, faces glabrous or sparsely strigillose; pappi whitish to reddish, 5.3–6 mm. 2n = 48.
Phenology: Flowering Aug–Oct.
Habitat: Moist meadows, moist woodlands, dry, open, pine or oak woods, wooded roadsides
Elevation: 400–1500 m
Ala., Ga., N.C., S.C., Tenn., Va.
Symphyotrichum retroflexum is known only from the Appalachian Blue Ridges. It is possible that the species is an allopolyploid derived from members of subsections Cordifolii and Symphyotrichum.